Why is a spelling competition called 'Spelling Bee'?

Spelling Bee season is underway and the question many often wonder at this time is: Why is the spelling competition called the "Spelling Bee"?

The term "Spelling Bee" first appeared in 1875 in the U.S., according to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which hosts the annual competition that attracts thousands of students.

"Bee" was combined with the word "spelling" because "bee" is defined as a "social gathering."

But there could be other explanations.

Scripps wrote on its website:

"One possibility is that it comes from the Middle English word bene, which means "a prayer" or "a favor" (and is related to the more familiar word boon). In England, a dialect form of this word, been or bean, referred to "voluntary help given by neighbors toward the accomplishment of a particular task." (Webster's Third New International Dictionary).
Bee may simply be a shortened form of been, but no one is entirely certain."

Why do you think the spelling competition is called "Spelling Bee"? Tell us in the comments.

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